Prepared by Rev. Trish Davis
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy. (Psalm 65:8)
we thank you that all good gifts come from you.
We thank you for all you have already given us.
And, as the good soil welcomes the seed,
and causes it to grow, we welcome you to take root and flourish in our lives.
how can we possibly understand what you have to say to us,
if we don’t take time to listen.
Help us to seek out moments this week where we can find a quiet corner,
or even just a glance heavenward, to be with you.
Speak to us, Lord, and bless us; and make us a blessing to others.
Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’
This parable seems very apt for us during this time of uncertainty with some (many) still living in some form of isolation or lockdown. How do we feel when we receive church services on paper, or through the internet? Do they initially raise our spirits and bring us some joy and comfort? Do you have a Sunday routine now that involves listening to radio services, watching TV services and Songs of Praise? Perhaps for some housebound people nothing much has changed apart from seeing less people. But what happens over the week? Does our faith remain fuelled up by our Sunday experiences or are we more like some of the people mentioned in the parable today?
Do we find that what we don’t fully understand what we hear about God’s Kingdom, and is what we do hear easily snatched away from us by an enemy waiting for the first sign of weakness to come in and rob us of hope and peace and purpose?
Or do we find that the roots of our faith are in fact quite shallow – so that, although we might find ourselves fairly full of joy on a Sunday, that does not carry over to Mon, Tues, Weds…?
Or maybe, whatever we hear on a Sunday cannot make much of a dent to the weight of worry and anxiety we carry around, or cannot take the place of our desire for security through material things or through people?
This parable that we have heard so often, from our childhood onwards, may have become so familiar that we rarely think it is meant to speak to us today, in 2020. But speak to us is does! And what I think it could be saying to us today is: How can we build faith or Kingdom ‘resilience’?
‘Resilience’ is a bit of an ‘in’ word these days:
- the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened: (Cambridge English Dictionary)
- the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
- ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. (Dictionary.com)
If we are to achieve resiliency as Christians we will need to become more reliant on God. Easier said than done you might say…? But we can do it you know! We have the resources around us – we can see the splendour of God in creation – just look out of your windows. And if you don’t see so well now, or you are blind – recall wonderful sounds (music you enjoy perhaps); think of tempting smells (flowers, baking, fish and chip shops…!); remember people who have brought or do bring you comfort.
We also have God’s Word in the Bible and in hymns and songs. Many of us can recite the Lord’s Prayer, or the 23rd Psalm, or specific verses of Scripture which can build us up: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven’ (Matthew 6:9); ‘Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me’ (Psalm 23:4); ‘God so loved the world that he gave only Son…’ (John 3:16); ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28)
If we choose to immerse ourselves in God’s Word then we will become stronger, more resilient Christians. But we do have to make that choice. Ask God to give you the determination to do that – and keep on asking if you feel you don’t get God’s help straight away. Ask for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit to set you firmly on the good soil.
The wonderful thing about the good soil is that there is growth. As our resilience grows, our faith deepens, our love for God and God’s Kingdom increases, which means our care and compassion for others develops, and we find we are sowing seeds when we connect with other people. And we can still connect with others despite constraints on us – there is still the telephone, writing letters or emails or texts, speaking to our neighbours and to people who deliver things to our doors.
While it might seem that our lives have closed in on us, I doubt that is how God sees it – we can always play a role in sowing seeds for the Kingdom. So I encourage you today to develop your resilience; to ask God to help you with this so that both you as individuals, and all of us as ‘the church’ can play our part. As Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
Prayer of Confession
For the times we dash haphazardly into your presence,
finding it hard to leave behind our cares and worries…
forgive us, and make us new.
For the times when we don’t learn from our experiences…
forgive us, and make us new.
For the times when we don’t take care of ourselves,
or the people we share our lives with…
forgive us, and make us new.
For the times we don’t see what you want us to see
and just take things at face value…
forgive us, and make us new.
For the times when we want our seeds planted in neat rows,
when our own plans become more important than yours,
rather than letting the Holy Spirit prepare the soil of our lives
and blow where the Spirit wants to…
forgive us, and make us new. Amen.
Pause for a moment of silent reflection
Prayers of Intercession
We pray for all those who are vulnerable in in different ways as we continue to make our way through this Coronavirus situation: protect the elderly and those suffering from chronic disease; provide support for those with mental health challenges who feel isolated, anxious, and helpless; and give courage to all who are nervous and hesitant about re-engaging with regular life again.
We pray for the young and the strong: give them the necessary caution to keep them from unwittingly spreading this disease, and inspire them to help others. Continue to equip those working in our hospitals and care homes with the mental and physical resources they most need.
We pray for our seaside resorts and our countryside as visitors grow in numbers and do not always take care with social distancing or leaving places as they found them. Protect those who are trying to supervise large groups of people and those who find themselves clearing up unwanted mess. Help people to be responsible in how they treat the environment.
We pray for workers in a variety of industries facing layoffs and financial hardship; for those who wonder if their businesses will ever get off the ground again; for people unsure when and how they will get paid work in the future. Help governments make wise plans and give hope to those who feel the future could be bleak.
We pray for those who are sad and grieving; for people who have lost loved ones and been unable to say a proper goodbye; for all who feel unsupported and for whom the world looks to be a dark place. Help churches find ways to provide care and support and show each one of us how we can play a part in this.
We pause to pray for the wider world – for the many countries where suffering continues and recovery is slow…PAUSE
We ask that there will be hope, joy, peace and comfort, given and received, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
A final word: from the prophet Isaiah linking the sower, the seed and God’s word to encourage us as we begin a new week.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
As we move into the week ahead,
may we all have ears to hear so that we might strengthen and grow.
And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with us all, now and forever more. Amen.